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Oral Testimony by Export Import Bank of United States Chairman John E Robson Before the Senate Banking Committee


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First, let me remind everyone that a central inspiration for TPCC's establishment by Congress was the observation that trade and exports, while growing spectacularly in importance to the U.S. economy, were not getting cohesive and appropriate export and trade promotion assistance from the Federal Government.

Under our economic system, of course, the roles of government and private sector business are distinct. But all America has a stake in seeing our businesses compete effectively against their foreign commercial adversaries. And those adversaries often receive considerable help from their governments in many forms. So it is a legitimate function of the U.S. Government to find ways to keep the playing field level for our businesses in the global marketplace.

That, of course, is what the Ex-Im Bank does by providing credit guarantees, credit insurance and loans for exports to often-risky emerging markets in situations where the private banking, insurance and finance firms won't participate. We don't compete with them.

Ex-Im Bank has been doing this since 1934 and we are good at it.

But by and large Ex-Im Bank has done its mission as a solitary player with very little collaboration or outreach to other U.S. Government agencies with which we might, with only modest effort, find common enterprise which would create more diverse and powerful support for American business.

And it is my experience that there has not been a strong practice or tradition in the many agencies comprising the TPCC to invest a great deal of time, thought or effort in creating opportunities for partnering with one or more sister agencies for the purpose of promoting exports and trade for American business.

That is why the revitalization of the TPCC and the efforts we have underway described by Commerce Secretary Donald Evans in his testimony are timely and important.

The goal as I see it is not to establish a seamless phalanx among the TPCC agencies or a one-size-fits-all effort in export and trade promotion. For the programs and constituencies are not identical nor are their activities conducted for identical objectives. But what TPCC can do is to help set the stage and infuse some momentum to create shifting clusters and alliances among its membership directed at export and trade promotion which might be broad in scope or more narrowly focused on a region, an industrial sector or even a specific transaction.

The TPCC program now underway is a great contribution to that outcome.

We should know and be sharing what other agencies in our government are doing and, more importantly, what the competition is doing, how we can contend more effectively on behalf of American businesses with the competition's best programs and practices and, indeed, what of those programs and practices we should adopt.

The TPCC in my opinion is an ideal vehicle for gathering and analyzing a broad base of data from around the world and within our country as we have set out to do. And the Ex-Im Bank is very pleased to participate in these efforts and is looking forward to some concrete data that we will undoubtedly find useful going forward.

Let me touch very briefly on the areas that appear to me to offer the prospect for improving our programs as well as illuminating opportunities where we might successfully collaborate with our TPCC colleagues.

  1. Many other nations have established counterpart agencies to our Ex-Im Bank. They too have recognized the importance of exports and trade to their economies and have stepped out very aggressively. For example, Canada and Germany have created new official entities called market windows which enjoy many benefits of being a public entity but may operate as and really compete with private banks. They may be having a competitive impact, and we are urgently attempting to pull together sufficient data to get an accurate picture of what they are really doing in the marketplace.

  2. Tied Aid use has seen a recent resurgence particularly by Japan. The U.S. has a so-called Tied Aid capital projects war chest, but it has seen sparing use.

  3. The potential for attracting more small and medium size businesses into the exporter universe appears promising. And TPCC's survey efforts of that market should be very important.

Finally, let me just mention some collaborative efforts we have very recently made that I think capture the spirit of the TPCC vision.

  • OPIC, TDA and Ex-Im Bank forged a joint investment, export and technical assistance venture directed at Indonesia's energy and other industries.

  • The same three agencies have just established a task force which will be sending representatives from each agency to find and help implement opportunities for U.S. business in Pakistan.

  • Ex-Im Bank, the Commerce Department and the State Department have put in motion a program where Ex-Im will learn in advance about Governors' trade missions traveling to a country and undertake to play a role in such a mission in the country of destination.

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, that concludes my remarks and I will be happy to answer any questions.